The Nikon Coolpix L100: with 15x optical zoom, is this chunky superzoom the perfect compact for shooting from afar? Mike Lowe investigates...
The Nikon L100:
The Nikon L100 is an AA battery-powered superzoom compact nestled at the high end of Nikon’s Coolpix ‘Life’ range. If you’re looking for a compact with a long lens for serious shooting from afar then the L100 could well make its way onto your wishlist.
Nikon L100 Features
The Nikon L100 scribes a solid list of features – though from the outset the dominantly large lens makes it clear that superzoom is very much the name of the game. Capable of 15x optical zoom (that’s a wide 28mm through to 420mm in good’ol 35mm speak) with some additional, though less useful in practice, digital zoom at the upper end. This is backed up by Nikon’s vibration reduction technology, helping keep those shaky hands capable of taking sharp images. 10 megapixels ensures large and resolute images at a more than sufficient resolution; it’s good to see manufacturers have stopped pushing megapixel digits through the roof at the expense of image quality.
Nikon Coolpix L100 example image – 28-420mm (15x optical zoom range) – click for full size gallery
A variety of modes – including 14 scene modes, movie mode, a 13 frame per second sport mode (at 3MP only), ‘Hi ISO’ (3MP only), panorama assist (computer-loaded stitching software comes in the box) and smile detection – help to cover all photographic bases. Whether you’re shooting portraits, landscapes, or at night then the L100’s settings plump to assist. Moreover the ‘Easy auto mode’ makes best use of all settings to allow you to point and shoot with best results.
Design & Performance
Nikon L100 Design
In hand the Nikon L100 is quite a beast – a bright and sharp 3in screen adorns the rear, whilst a chunky grip to the right and even chunkier lens dominates the left. A simple Wide/Tele zoom control atop the camera makes for quick and easy control, though the lens has no hands-on manual zoom or focal capabilities which can slow proceedings somewhat.
The manually operated flash is a real design gem. Raising it by hand ensures that a big flash won’t go off at the most inappropriate of moments. Though, by contrast, the rest of the camera doesn’t expand greatly into manual controls. However, the menu system is of intuitively simple fare, both clearly laid out and quick to use – following the standard format akin to many compacts.
Nikon L100 Performance
The lens is, when considering the magnitude of processes to capture from 28-420mm, the jewel in the Nikon L100’s crown. Whilst it’s mighty tough to shoot handheld at 15x optical zoom (420mm in this case) whatever camera you’re using, the vibration reduction assists in keeping images that extra bit sharp and can easily be switched on or off.
The 14 various scene modes offer a good array of options for tackling the scene at hand, though having only a single ‘Hi ISO’ mode is rather limiting; frustrating even, not least because it automatically drops to a 3 megapixel quality.
Sadly the Nikon L100’s performance dips further when fronted with many of the more standard functions. Whilst the lens ensures that your distant telephoto shots will be of admirable quality, it all comes a cropper when shooting close-up or in low light. The macro mode struggles to attain focus and is persistently temperamental, in frequent cases having difficulties focusing on objects at a multitude of zoom ranges. Macro and telephoto don’t tend to go hand in hand, so this may not be an entire surprise, yet the Nikon L100 official manual claims objects as close as 1cm can be photographed – something that rarely rings true. The autofocus assist (AF) seems lacking, often excessively compensating before eventually finding focus, which makes for a big let down.
Image Quality & Value For Money
Nikon L100 Image Quality
The L100’s lens is, for this price point, top quality as far as compacts go. There is no light fall-off and only a hint of chromatic aberration, making for detailed prints at A4 and beyond. Under dim light the usually ‘fair’ grain does get notably more prominent, amplified by the stunted 3-megapixel size in Hi ISO mode which further quashes image quality into a much softer affair.
Nikon L100 sample image – Normal (10MP) vs Hi ISO (3MP) scene
Perhaps one of the most exciting things that comes bundled in the Nikon L100’s box is the Panorama Maker software. Often in-camera panorama stitching (as offered by many other manufacturers) can provide results that look decent on a small screen, but in reality the threading is a bit of a pig’s ear at full size. The L100 avoids this problem as the Panorama Maker assembles truly convincing mergers with seamless joins in a matter of seconds.
Nikon L100 sample image – stitched panorama (using software provided)
Nikon L100 Value For Money
With so many cameras on the market, you want to know that dipping into your pocket for a penny under £240 is going to bring the goods. The Nikon L100 delivers on the superzoom front and at a reasonably low price when aligned against its competitors. But £240 isn’t just pocket money, it’s a serious whack of cash.
The AA batteries certainly won’t be for everyone either (not that there’s a choice) – but what happened to the rechargeable li-ion battery? Whilst some may enjoy the option of using rechargeables or buying new batteries for immediate power-up, that all comes at extra cost over time and helps nobody if the shop’s closed…
The Nikon Coolpix L100 is a good superzoom compact ? from wide to telephoto you can expect good quality images from a sterling lens, that?s only let down by a lack of more developed manual controls, in particular no comprehensive ISO options.
At £240 the L100 is hardly pocket money, but it?s as affordable as they come when pitched against viable competitors? offerings. The 4xAA batteries certainly won’t appeal to all, with a li-ion battery option lacking. Fundamentally, if there was a more consistent autofocus that successfully dealt with those near-side subjects, then the Nikon L100 would offer a more accomplished all-round purchase. Sadly, it doesn?t quite tick all the boxes, leaving a feeling of disappointment for those seeking a developed all-rounder.
The Nikon Coolpix L100 is a good superzoom compact ? from wide to telephoto you can expect good quality images from a sterling lens, that?s only let down by a lack of more developed manual controls, in particular no comprehensive ISO options. At £240 the L100 is hardly pocket money, but it?s as affordable as they come when pitched against viable competitors? offerings. The 4xAA batteries certainly won’t appeal to all, with a li-ion battery option lacking. Fundamentally, if there was a more consistent autofocus that successfully dealt with those near-side subjects, then the Nikon L100 would offer a more accomplished all-round purchase. Sadly, it doesn?t quite tick all the boxes, leaving a feeling of disappointment for those seeking a developed all-rounder.